- The airplane "black box" discovered earlier this year at UN Headquarters in New York – stored in a locked file cabinet for the last 10 years – "is not linked to the crash in 1994" that killed the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi and set off the Rwandan genocide, a UN probe has concluded. The French judiciary has accused the UN of covering up evidence from the fatal plane crash.
According to a statement issued yesterday by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), the cockpit voice recorder that was shipped to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York by the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) did "not contain any relevant information" about the crash of that aircraft, which triggered a 100-day killing spree of 800,000 Tutsis and "moderate" Hutus.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in March had directed OIOS to investigate the matter in response to allegations by the French daily 'Le Monde' that the UN had possession of the black box from the Falcon 50 aircraft that was carrying President Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda and his Burundian counterpart, Cyprien Ntaryamira, and which crashed near Kigali International Airport on 6 April 1994.
The allegations in 'Le Monde' followed a still unpublished report by the French judiciary, concluding that current Rwanda President Paul Kagame - who at the time headed the Uganda-based Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebel movement - had indeed ordered the assassination of the two Presidents onboard he aircraft.
According to the French allegations, Mr Kagame had ordered a rocket attack on the plane that had killed all those onboard. Proof for this was to be found on the aircraft's black box, which had been hidden by the UN on the direct order of Mr Annan, with an aim to prevent investigations. Mr Annan has earlier rejected these claims and President Kagame on several occasions has ridiculed the repetitive French accusations.
The UN agency OIOS now goes far in rejecting the French allegations and lamenting its previous information policy. The UN department said the recorder had been received in good condition, and that its decision at that time not to analyse the box's origins and contents was made without its existence being reported up the chain of command among peacekeeping officials.
Noting that "much of the recent media attention to the issue could have been avoided" had the UN department acted in 1994, OIOS recommended a review of the information flow through the peacekeeping chain of command and strengthened procedures to minimise the risk of important matters not being reported to senior managers, particularly during times of crises and emergency.
In France, meanwhile, there is still uncertainty attached to whether the judiciary will go forward with its "investigations" into the 1994 Kigali incident. The prominent French anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, who has led the "investigations", may be indicting President Kagame to a French court and issue an international arrest order against the Rwandan leader.
Such a development may however cause international protests and a revival of the many stories linking Paris to the genocidal Kigali government in 1994. After Mr Kagame's RPF rebels stopped the Rwandan government's execution of the genocide by taking control in the country, ties between Paris and Kigali have been mostly hostile.
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